Why do Social Democrats do what they do?

July 03, 2010

Peace? With friends like these? Solomon Hughes, in Morning Star Thursday 01 July 2010

Former Spanish president Jose Aznar saw Israeli commandos shooting dead protesters on the Mavi Marmara and decided that the world needed more friendship. Specifically, he founded a new Friends of Israel. But reading through Aznar's bizarre declaration makes me think, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Aznar is the kind of pal who likes to get his mates in a fight. Aznar doesn't seem to wish peace on Israel or hope for a way for Israelis to live with their neighbours.

Instead Aznar says: "Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism."

The Spaniard is saying he wants Israel to act like an armed camp in enemy territory. He seems to want his friend to guard his own oil, which is inconveniently under someone else's sand. So Aznar's hand of friendship is busy pushing his pal into a punch-up.

Even when he tries to come up with kind words for Israel, Aznar seems to know little about his "friend." According to Aznar, "owing to its roots, history and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation." Defending Israel is all about defending "Western values."

Aznar says that people who don't understand this are suffering from "masochistic self-doubt over our own identity," the "multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others" and general national "decline."

He seems to have forgotten that Israel was founded in response to a massive failure of "Western values." The Holocaust, the industrial murder of millions of Jews that acted as a spur to the foundation of Israel, didn't come from the "East." Israel wasn't founded because the nazis were too friendly to "Eastern" values, or Hitler's enthusiasm for "multiculturalism" or his relaxed attitude to "decline."

Indeed Aznar's whole statement, which is filled with enthusiasm for Israel's role in a "war" against "extremists," doesn't mention the Holocaust once.

It's not surprising that Aznar wants to forget Israel was born in response to Western fascism. In his teenage years Aznar was in fact a supporter of the Falange, Franco's fascist party.

Aznar's Friends of Israel looks a bit like a revival tour for the people behind the Iraq war. Aznar himself claimed to have evidence for Saddam's WMD and pushed hard for the 2003 invasion. Iraq war hawk John Bolton is also on board.

The "friendship" seems to stem from the same urge - not an urge to find a durable settlement for the people of Israel and Palestine, but an urge to find another weapon to wave around a strategically important oil-rich region. It's the same urge which gives rise to the idea that the best way to "aid" Israel is to pump up its military might.

Aznar's friendship is a creepy offer to hold his pal's coat while nudging him into a brawl.

Sadly, over the years, more and more Israeli politicians seem happy to play up to this "friendship." The US has sent huge cargoes of weapons to Israel, while Israeli politics have drifted further to the right, with the Likud leading and Kadima being seen as a "centrist" party.

Just one more note. Aznar's declaration opens with a description of the Mavi Marmara and other boats as "a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world." So Aznar has already decided that the passengers on the flotilla were responsible for getting themselves shot.

Tory peer and former unionist leader David Trimble also joined Aznar's group. The same David Trimble is supposed to be an "independent" member of Israel's commission investigating the shootings. Trimble's role was welcomed by Foreign Secretary William Hague, which makes clear that, rattled as they were over the Mavi Marmara shootings, the Tories will still settle for a whitewash.

General McChrystal is gone, Petraeus is back, but will Nato change its Afghan war plan?

The two generals are very different men, but with very similar approaches to war. First, we are still fighting Afghanistan on one meal a day.

Weirdly, both generals only chow down once a day. This unhealthy diet made General Petraeus faint during Congressional hearings.

It's some kind of warrior-monk thing. If you viewed the generals in terms of Jedi Knights - and I very much fear they do - McChrystal is Luke Skywalker, the once rowdy youngster, while Petraeus is the wise old hand. Yoda is now running the Afghan war.

Both men are what the US has nicknamed COINdinistas - they are counterinsurgency (or COIN) enthusiasts. They think the Vietnam war shows how to win.

Petraeus wrote the book on counterinsurgency - literally. His army manual says Nato should follow murderous strategies.

Petraeus's plan is for "armed social work." Soldiers should not only kill the enemy, they should also control the Afghan populace to separate them from the insurgents. This means "isolating the area to cut off external support and to kill or capture escaping insurgents."

Petraeus's solution is army "control over the area and populace" in Afghanistan. Building up local militias is central to both the killing and the control.

In fact the general thinks the US only lost the Vietnam war because it lost the will to fight, so he would like to commit Nato to a long and vicious Afghan conflict.

General McChrystal was sacked after his Animal House fratboy insults against the Obama administration were exposed by Rolling Stone magazine. But that's not the only thing that was exposed.

The same article quoted his adviser Major General Bill Mayville as saying that Afghanistan is "not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win."

So we can either stick with the bloody war for an ambiguous victory, saving US honour with Afghan lives, or we can sue for peace now.

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